Mitchell scores 33, Jazz rout Thunder 113-96
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Shutting down the Utah Jazz offense is proving easier said than done for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For a second straight game, a late second-quarter surge by Utah carried over into the second half and it allowed the Jazz to pull away for a 113-96 victory Monday night. The Jazz used a 20-3 run spanning the end of the second quarter and the start of the third to break open the game.
Utah takes a 3-1 series lead back to Oklahoma City. Game 5 in the best-of-seven playoff is Wednesday night.
Donovan Mitchell had 33 points and seven rebounds to lead the Jazz to their third straight win in the series. Joe Ingles added 20 points, hitting five 3-pointers.
Mitchell’s willingness to attack the rim put the Thunder on their heels throughout the second half.
“He’s done a good job of getting in there and finishing or dropping it off,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s an important part of what we do. He’s our most dynamic offensive player.”
Rudy Gobert added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Ricky Rubio chipped in 13 points, eight assists and six boards. Derrick Favors also scored 13.
Paul George had 32 points and Russell Westbrook added 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Thunder, who shot 39 percent from the field.
“I thought we played downhill a lot more,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we were at the rim a lot more. From there, we probably missed some opportunities to move the ball. I thought our ball movement was sporadic and sometimes it was very good.”
The Thunder opened a 26-19 lead late in the first quarter when Carmelo Anthony capped a string of three straight Oklahoma City baskets with an alley-oop layup. They held onto the lead for much of the second quarter until Utah finally woke up on offense.
Starting with Gobert cutting to the rim for a dunk with 3:45 left in the second quarter, the Jazz scored on 11 straight possessions. Ingles fueled the surge by hitting three consecutive 3s to put Utah in front 58-52 before halftime.
“These guys are great at telling me to shoot it as much as possible within the flow of our team and our offense,” Ingles said.
The surge Ingles kept going finally culminated in another dunk by Gobert that punctuated the decisive 20-3 run that gave Utah a 67-52 lead.
“The whole year, one of the things that we’ve wanted to do collectively is try to generate open shots,” Snyder said. “You’re not always going to make them, but you want to keep taking them. Eventually, you’re going to make some. We hit some timely ones in the second half.”
The Jazz led by as many as 21 in the third quarter. Utah went up 87-68 when Mitchell drained a jumper and then fed Ingles for a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
Physical play and heated emotions characterized the game. Both teams picked up two technical fouls before halftime. Jae Crowder was ejected after a technical foul with 5:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“That’s just what you’re going to get with a playoff team,” George said. “It’s playoff basketball. It’s going to get chippy. It’s going to get physical. We’re in it for the fight.”
Thunder: Westbrook finished with his fourth consecutive double-double in the series. ... Anthony went just 5 of 18 from the field. ... Oklahoma City totaled one assist in the third quarter and finished with 10 for the game. ... The Thunder shot 5 of 26 from 3-point range.
Jazz: Ingles is 10 of 21 from 3-point range over his last two games. ... Utah forced 15 turnovers. ... Royce O’ Neale finished with a career playoff-high nine rebounds. ... Rubio is averaging eight assists per game in the series.
WESTBROOK VS. RUBIO
Westbrook publicly promised to shut down Rubio in Game 4 after the Jazz point guard notched a triple-double in Game 3. His aggressiveness ended up with Westbrook drawing four personal fouls in the first half. In the end, Rubio shot just 4 of 12 from the field, but he finished with two fewer assists (eight) than the Thunder tallied as a team.
Following the game, Westbrook did not want to discuss how he guarded Rubio.
“It wasn’t about me or him,” he said. “Let’s get past that. We done with that.”
Mitchell set a postseason rookie scoring record for the Jazz, passing Karl Malone, who had 31 points on April 20, 1986, against the Mavericks. Mitchell is the first rookie to have a 30-point playoff game since Brandon Jennings did it in 2010. Mitchell is just the third rookie in the last 50 years to score 110-plus points in his first four playoff games, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan.
“It’s definitely an honor to have a record like that,” Mitchell said. “Definitely an honor. No doubt about that, but we have one more game, so I’m focused on that.”
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